It was a night full of firsts for Saugus girls’ soccer (1-0, 1-0).
The Centurions opened their first game of the season under first-year head coach Kai English with a 1-0 victory over Valencia (0-1, 0-1).
The lone goal was scored by freshman Makea Leonard, scoring her first goal in her first-ever varsity game.
Leonard tapped in the golden goal at the 51-minute mark to lead Saugus to the win.
The Centurions dominated possession throughout the game. Valencia would capitalize on the chances it had with strong pushes to the Saugus side.
“We wanted to control the game,” said English. “I told the girls before that if we can control the game and play through our midfield that we’re going to win the game and we did that.”
Leonard had a handful of shots along with junior Sophia Ruys and senior captain Dani Moore.
Moore was on nearly every ball on her side of the field before an injury sidelined her in the first half.
Saugus was able to keep up the pressure without Moore but the Valencia back line did its part well. The defenders consistently made key deflections and cleared out balls from the relentless Centurion attack.
“I was impressed with the defense because they blocked a lot of shots before they got to the goal,” said Vikings head coach Brian Miller. “I don’t think our keeper had a save to make. The defense kept their shape and they blocked a lot of shots. They really worked hard on it.”
Miller has a fairly new team this season after his program saw 18 seniors graduate last year.
For Saugus, it was the start the team wanted but English will look to keep the team inclining through a long season.
“We wanted to be solid at the back, which we were today,” said English. “Possession, which we controlled today, and then some finishing in the final third, which was probably the only fault from today. Could have and probably should have been two, three or even more [goal-night]. But that’s what we got to work on. But overall, we’ve been working on a lot of things and they showed it today.”
Miller will work with his team on creating more chances but believes the team chemistry will give the group an edge in games to come.
“I think that the chemistry of the team is good. They work hard for each other,” said Miller. “They’re a good group. They work hard in training to get better and we will get better as the season goes on. Saugus were fast, fit and pressed us a lot and we combatted that pretty well. And it comes down to one goal.”
English’s team will look to keep the pressure hot on opposing teams and hopefully net a few comfort goals. Regardless, it was quite a varsity career start for Leonard.
“I feel like we did pretty good,” said Leonard. “We just need to work on our finishing and when we would get behind them.”
Valencia returns to the pitch for league action on Tuesday when the Vikings head to Castaic at 3:15 p.m. Saugus will play at the same time at West Ranch.